Paula Vennells – Live: Ex-postmistress accused of ‘crocodile tears’ as she fights Horizon inquiry

Paula Vennells broke down in tears during her testimony on Wednesday

Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells has been accused of crying “crocodile tears” by a union as she struggled to answer questions during her evidence at the Horizon IT scandal inquiry.

In the first of three days of evidence, Ms Vennells insisted she did not know until 2012 that the post office was conducting its own private criminal investigations, despite joining the organization in 2007.

She broke down in tears when asked how she reacted to the death of former postmaster general Martin Griffiths, who died after attempting suicide in 2013, and had long pauses before answering some of the questions she was asked.

The CWU union, which represents postal workers, posted a video of X, adding: “Crocodile tears Paula Vennells must be held accountable.”

More than 700 sub-postmasters were wrongfully prosecuted and convicted between 1999 and 2015 as a result of Fujitsu’s flawed Horizon IT system – which made it appear their branches were short of cash.

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The Met Police says it was assured the Met Police would investigate the Horizon scandal

Campaigner Alan Bates said he met “senior” Metropolitan Police officers on Wednesday morning to discuss possible prosecutions following the Post Office Horizon scandal.

He said: “They will certainly investigate, I had that assurance and I think the group needs that as an assurance and that’s something we’ve never been sure of until today.”

Andy GregoryMay 22, 2024 9:33 pm

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Paula Vennells accepts that the statements she made to MPs were wrong

Paula Vennells said she accepted statements made in her letters to MPs in response to questions about Horizon were wrong in her first witness statement.

Ms Vennells was asked by the inquiry to comment on statements in her letters to three MPs, including: telling Nicholas Brown MP that “the system has proved very robust since its introduction”; a statement to MP Mike Weir that the Post Office is “fully confident that the Horizon computer system … enables deputy chiefs to accurately account for the transactions they carry out in their branch”; and her statement to MP Mike Weir that “there is no evidence whatsoever that the Horizon system was in any way at fault in relation to financial irregularities found in a deputy post office account”.

She said she “believes these claims to be true”, adding that they were “justified by specialist knowledge because I understood that these claims came from or were endorsed by senior specialist managers with detailed knowledge of the Horizon system and the operation of SPM accounts”.

Ms Vennells added: “I accept that these allegations are wrong.”

Andy GregoryMay 22, 2024 8:41 pm

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Paula Vennells, accused of asking the team to “dig up” the files of the dead

Paula Vennells is accused of asking her team to “dig up” the records of Martin Griffiths, who stood in front of a bus after he was fired from his post office in 2013.

The former postmaster general was questioned during the investigation into the Horizon IT scandal about an email she sent after his suicide attempt in which she allegedly heard about “previous mental and family problems”.

In the email to Post Office bosses, Ms Vennells said: “Can you tell me what story we have on Martin? I had heard but not yet seen an official report that there were prior mental health issues and potential family issues.

Lead counsel for the inquest, Jason Beer QC, asked if Ms Vennells was asking her team to “dig into Mr Griffiths’ health records to look for information or evidence that he took his own life due to mental health issues or family issues?”

Our political correspondent Archie Mitchell reports:

Andy GregoryMay 22, 2024 7:58 pm

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Watch: Paula Vennells cries as she gives evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry

Paula Vennells cries as she gives evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry

Andy GregoryMay 22, 2024 7:22 pm

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The sub-postmaster said to Paula Vennells: “I wonder what god you worship”

A former postmaster who tried to warn the Post Office about the Horizon IT system emailed Paula Vennells when she was chief executive saying: “I wonder what god you worship”.

In 2015, Tim McCormack wrote to Ms Vennells, an ordained priest, warning her there was “clear and indisputable evidence of an intermittent bug at Horizon which can and is causing thousands of pounds in losses to subpostal staff”.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Ms Vennells denied sharing Post Office lawyer Rodrick Williams’ view that Mr McCormack was a bluffer, but said she did not remember what she did with the sub-chief’s email.

The inquest heard Mr McCormack sent another message to Ms Vennells in July 2016 which said: “Typical head-in-the-sand response from the team you trust too much. Once the police investigation is over, it is very likely, indeed likely, that members of your staff will be sent to prison. Your part in this will not escape notice.’

He added, “I wonder what god you worship.”

Andy GregoryMay 22, 2024 6:49 p.m

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Alan Bates says he has ‘no sympathy’ for Paula Vennells

Campaigner Alan Bates said he had “no sympathy whatsoever” for Paula Vennells after her tears.

Speaking outside Aldwych House after Ms Vennells gave evidence, Mr Bates said: “The whole thing is upsetting for everyone, including so many of the victims. I really have no sympathy.

Asked if he thought she was truly sorry, he added: “I wonder about those apologies, they’re just words.”

Andy GregoryMay 22, 2024 6:21 pm

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Paula Vennells evidence ‘like figure skating on a pin’, says Alan Bates

Campaigner Alan Bates said Paula Vennells’ evidence was “like figure skating on the head of a pin”.

Speaking outside Aldwych House after Ms Vennells gave evidence, Mr Bates said: “It was a bit like figure skating on the head of a pin all day, isn’t it a great thing backwards?

“It’s only day one of three, so I don’t know how far we’ll go, but it was good to see her in the stands.”

Andy GregoryMay 22, 2024 5:56 pm

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The Chair thanked the public for their restraint during the testimony of Paula Vennells

Inquest chairman Sir Wynn Williams thanked those in the gallery for their restraint during today’s proceedings as the hearing was adjourned for the day.

He said: “May I say to members of the public and to the key players who attended that there could have been a lot more verbal intervention than there was from the floor – and I am very grateful to you for your low-key demeanor on the day.

“But it’s not to encourage you to be less restrained, it’s to encourage you to be even more restrained for the rest of this week.”

Andy GregoryMay 22, 2024 5:29 pm

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Vennells accused of crocodile tears by the union

The postal workers union CWU released a video of Vennells’ tearful testimony, accusing her of producing “crocodile tears”.

They added: “No tears when postmasters tragically took their own lives due to stress. No tears when the postmasters were jailed. “No tears when postmasters turned their entire communities against them. Tears are too late now. Paula Vennells must be held accountable.

Tom BarnesMay 22, 2024 4:55 pm

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Vennells fought back tears as the inquest was adjourned

Sir Wyn Williams asks shortly before the break about the Post Office’s strategy and whether Vennells has been advised to be “very precise, very careful and very cautious” about what you told MPs.

She replies, “I would [agree] but I’m not sure I would have noticed that in the morning of the day.

He takes about five seconds to begin his answer: “In hindsight, because probably .

He interjects: “If you need time to think about it, you can tell me in the morning,” to laughter from the gallery.

It looks like she’s starting to cry again.

Barney DavisMay 22, 2024 4:50 p.m

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